National Immunization Month: Why We Shouldn't Take Our Health For Granted
August is finally here! And even though BBQs and all those short trips to the beach have brought out the free spirit in us, we can't help thinking that autumn is a month away. Autumn is back-to-school season – which practically means the common flu, as well as several other diseases and viruses, will be back in business before we know it.
It seems like a stretch, but thinking ahead never hurt anyone, especially if you consider there's an uptick in outbreaks in the recent years. In fact, CDC reports that in the last decade several otherwise preventable diseases (see: measles(1) and mumps(2)) are on the rise. The reason? The higher vaccine exemption rates. If you want to keep you and your closed ones safe this winter, National Immunization Month is the perfect place to start.
What Is “National Immunization Month”?
Held throughout August, National Immunization Month(3) (NIAM) is an annual observance that highlights the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. That includes everyone from infants, children, and teens to young adults, pregnant women, and golden-agers. The goal of this health campaign is to raise awareness on all issues surrounding immunization: from how we can nip all those preventable diseases in the bud to the benefits of timely vaccination.
So, during this month, major health agencies, such as the CDC and AARC, are teaming up to educate folks around the country on efficient immunization, including which vaccines they or their kids should get ASAP and the potential risks of non-vaccination. All these occur through the use of several helpful resources (guides and assessment tools) which focus on the individual's needs.
What's The Deal With Vaccination These Days
Of course, before we talk more about how you can make the most out of this year's NIAM, we first need to understand why getting vaccinated is so important. The anti-vaccine movement(4) continues to gain momentum, even though the overall vaccine rates are going up. With that in mind, it's no surprise that the percentage of non-vaccinated kids has almost quadrupled(5) since the beginning of the millennia.
Sure, financial hardships and the lack of geographic access to health centers(6) could be a couple of reasons why more and more families are skipping their vaccine appointments. But, if we look at the actual data, we'll see that urban and rural populations show -more or less- comparable declines, and that's especially evident in states where vaccine exemptions run rampant(7).
In fact, one study shows that in states where non-vaccination is banned – such as Mississippi, West Virginia, and California – the populations have the lowest rates of outbreaks across the US. These findings clearly suggest that the uptick in vaccine-preventable diseases is mainly driven by the high levels of unimmunized kids.
But, if unvaccinated kids are the main reason behind all those county-level disease outbreaks, why do parents opt out of vaccination in the first place? Well, for one, many parents refuse to get the shots due to their religious and philosophical beliefs.
Fear: The Psychological Component
But, that's not the only reason. False fears regarding vaccination's side effects (see: autism, encephalitis, and other severe neurological disorders) also play a massive role in parents not wanting their kids to get vaccinated – even though this theory has been debunked(8) over and over again(9). And the weirdest part? Most of these parents(10) are actually white, English speaking, college educated, and covered by private health insurance. Of course, to be fair, such medical exemptions account for less than 5% of the general population(11), which isn't as high as many people think.
But, still, we shouldn't ignore these statistics (no matter how small they are) since the decision to skip vaccination could impact herd immunity. What's that supposed to mean? It means that even if a large portion of a city's population is vaccinated, the community's resistance to the spread of a disease is still low. That's what leads to the re-appearance of several preventable diseases, like measles and chickenpox.
In their turn, such diseases could result in several lifelong health issues, especially among the most vulnerable members of a community such as the elderly, pregnant women, and children. Some of the most severe side effects of low herd immunity include stillbirths, asthma, and paralysis.
A Regression in Modern Medicine - The Facts
It's a fact: More and more people jump on the non-vaccination bandwagon. But, what's also a fact is that outbreaks spring up like crazy these days. Don't believe us? Check out these facts.
The Disney Outbreak
In 2014 and 2015, more than 120 people were infected with measles after visiting the Disney theme parks, in Orange County, California. According to the CDC(12), almost half of them (45%) were not vaccinated against the disease. More than that, 43% of them had an unknown or undocumented vaccination status, which means they may have skipped their shot appointments at some point. In other words, people who weren't vaccinated against measles managed to contract the disease to those who were. And this is why this case is the perfect example of how low herd immunity could impact the overall community (yes, even those who are vaccinated).
The North Carolina School Outbreak
Not long ago, in 2018, a private school in North Carolina made the news when it reportedly served as ground zero for a small-scale chickenpox outbreak. According to CNN(13), medical exemption was a contributing factor, in this case, proving once again that non-vaccination and herd immunity don't mix.
Your Action Plan
But, what can you do to lower the spread of all these preventable yet potentially deadly diseases? Well, we all know that prevention is better than the cure, and since the World Health Organization has now ranked “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the top 10 global health emergencies, it's high time we stopped waiting around for a virus to knock on our door and take advantage of National Immunization Month. So, starting this August, make sure you book an appointment with your go-to physician and find out which diseases you should get vaccinated against.
Oh, and one more thing: While vaccination is the cornerstone of herd immunity, you could always add an extra “layer of protection” between you and viruses by loading up on nutrients. These nine winter veggies and fruits can help you build up a robust immune system that's slightly more resistant against diseases.
And if you don't have time to go grocery shopping and cook dinner every day, our dehydrated and freeze dried products are the easiest way to sneak all the right veggies and fruits into your meals with minimum effort.
So, what do you think? Will you get vaccinated during National Immunization Month? Please, share your thoughts in the comments down below!